Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Public plan groups fight back

A group of organizations representing state and local governments and public pension plans released a fact sheet that it says aims to set the record straight on the operations and funding of public employee pensions.

Released Feb. 1, the fact sheet notes that state and local governments have funded the majority of their pension costs and collectively hold $2.7 trillion for current and future retirees.

The fact sheet — issued by 10 organizations, including the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, National Council on Teacher Retirement and National Conference of State Legislatures — also notes that public pension investment returns have exceeded their assumptions over a 25-year period — at 9.25% vs. the assumed 8%. It says state and local governments also have changed benefit levels, contribution rates and made other adjustments to help rebound from losses incurred from the world financial crisis.

“The great strides made in the ability of state and local government retirement systems to ensure that more than 20 million working and retired public employees have financial security in retirement have been achieved without federal intervention,” the group states in the fact sheet.

Keith Brainard, Georgetown, Texas-based research director for NASRA, said in a telephone interview that the decision to issue the fact sheet was prompted by the increased attention paid to public pension plans and by proposals at the federal level to "require certain reporting among state and local pension plans."

“We're concerned about a one-size-fits-all approach to regulate, monitor or measure state and local pension plans,” he said. “Every one of these plans is unique.”

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